Hue Jackson is no longer an NFL head coach, but he was in 2017 when Colin Kaepernick was a free agent looking for a new QB job. With Kaepernick’s landmark kneeling protests on everyone’s mind in light of the death of George Floyd in police custody (and the ensuing protests that have spanned the globe), the former Cleveland Browns coach wants everyone to know that he was on the right side of history — he wanted the Browns to sign Kaepernick, even though they didn’t.
Jackson on Kaepernick: ‘I wanted him’
Jackson did an interview on Friday with “The Really Big Show” on Cleveland’s WKNR AM-850, and revealed that he was in favor of the Browns signing Kaepernick in 2017 after the team went 1-15 in 2016.
“I wanted him,” Jackson said via the News Herald. “It just didn’t work out. Obviously, those things do have to work from a finance, draft, whatever all that is. And that wasn’t my decision.
“I’ve known Colin. When I was with the Raiders [in 2011], we were going to draft him when I was there. So, obviously he’d been a really good player in the league. He had tremendous success. He is a guy who has stood for something. I think everybody is seeing exactly where he was coming from … I always thought Colin deserved an opportunity in this league, but he has to want to play. If he really wanted to play, I think he would have a chance again.”
History doesn’t support Jackson’s claim
History tells a much different story than Jackson does. In March of 2017, Jackson told the media that Kaepernick had barely come up during their internal discussions about the upcoming season.
“We haven't really discussed Colin,” Jackson said via ESPN. “There are other players at this point that we've really had a lot of conversation about to see if we can put on our team. Not saying that it won't come up later on. I think you have to exhaust everything you're doing. But at this point, he hasn't come up that much.”
It’s completely possible (and even likely) that Jackson never brought Kaepernick up because he knew management or ownership were against signing him.
But on the same day, Browns owner Jimmy Haslam said this to the Akron Beacon Journal when asked if Kaepernick’s protests would prevent the Browns from signing him.
“Absolutely not,” Haslam said. “If football people came and recommended [him], we’d go with the football people.”
The chances of a very rich team owner lying to the media about being open to signing Kaepernick are pretty high. But five months later, as the Browns were preparing 21-year-old quarterback DeShone Kizer to lead the team to a majestic 0-16 record, Jackson was actually fairly dismissive of the kneeling protests when asked about them by Cleveland.com, even invoking his love of the national anthem.
“I think everybody has a right to do, and I get it, but the National Anthem means a lot to myself personally, the organization and our football team,” Jackson said ... “I hope -- again I can't speak, I haven't really talked to our team about it -- I would hope that we don't have those issues.”
Jackson said that just a few days after 32-year-old Heather Heyer was struck and killed by a vehicle driven by a white supremacist while counter-protesting at a white nationalist rally.
It’s hard to reconcile what Jackson said in the past about anthem protests with his current claim that he wanted the Browns to sign Kaepernick. In the end, though, it doesn’t matter. The Browns didn’t sign Kaepernick, and neither did any other team. What Jackson said yesterday, or three years ago, won’t change that.
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